IIT Madras launches Nilekani Centre to advance Indian language technology

Indian Institute of Technology Madras has announced plans to launch the ‘Nilekani Centre at AI4Bharat’ to advance the state of Indian language technology with the intention to create a societal impact. According to an official statement, the center is supported by Rohini and Nandan Nilekani with a grant of Rs 36 crore through Nilekani Philanthropies. 

The center aims to work on advancing Indian language technology to create a wider impact. It was inaugurated in the campus on July 28, 2022, by Nandan Nilekani. As part of this launch event, a workshop open to students, researchers, and startups was held to discuss the resources available to build Indian language technologies.

Furthermore, the statement added that AI4Bharat was set up as an initiative of IIT Madras to build open-source language AI for Indian languages. 

“The Digital India Bhashini mission has been launched with the goal of all services and information being available to citizens in their own language with ‘collaborative AI’ at the core of the design. AI4Bharat will further contribute to and accelerate the Indic language AI work as a public good and is fully aligned with the goals of the Bhashini mission,” Nilekani said.

“Given the rich diversity of languages in India coupled with a rapidly expanding digital world, it is important to make significant advances in language technology to benefit the common man. While language technology has significantly improved for English and a few languages, Indian languages are lagging behind. The focus of the Centre would be to bridge this gap,” Mitesh M Khapra, associate professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, IIT Madras, said. 

“The Centre is situated at the intersection of academia, industry, and organizations working for the public good. This allows its contributions to be broad-based, AI research, open datasets as infrastructure, and applications for use by people,” Pratyush Kumar, researcher, Microsoft Research and Adjunct Faculty, IIT Madras, said.

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